Letang moves closer to return to lineup

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There were days Kris Letang struggled to get out of bed. Bouts of dizziness and nausea plagued him.

"It was really tough," the Penguins top defenseman said Tuesday after joining his teammates on the ice for the first time in weeks.

"I went through a month with a lot of symptoms."

Letang has recovered from a concussion and is medically cleared.

He participated in the morning skate but was not in the lineup against Carolina at Consol Energy Center. He said he needs to practice a bit more but sounded as if he could play before the All-Star break that starts late next week.

He spent a week in Canada with specialist Francois Chaput , who then came to Pittsburgh for a week. Letang said that helped. Like Ted Carrick , who is working with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in Atlanta this week for the second time, Chaput is a chiropractor specializing in concussion recovery.

Letang's spirits have rebounded, too, which became apparent when he listed another symptom.

"My 'entourage' said I was irritable," he said, with a smile.

"I think it was more that I was not playing hockey. It was a rough time. Sitting home watching my teammates play was kind of boring. It's a frustrating injury."

Letang got hurt Nov. 26 on a thundering hit from Montreal's Max Pacioretty , who subsequently got suspended for three games.

Initially, Letang said, "I noticed my nose was not in place.

"We took care of that. After that, it was just a question of being able to function."

He returned for overtime and scored the winning goal.

"I was pretty pumped to get back out there," he said.

"The adrenaline was still pumping in my veins. I didn't feel anything [out of the ordinary] that night.

"It was the day after, when I woke up in the morning, I didn't feel that great. I saw some doctors. Then, I started throwing up and getting dizzy."

Concussions, Part II

It is a sign of the times in the NHL that, about an hour after Letang spoke to reporters, Carolina second-year center Jeff Skinner sat in the visiting locker room at Consol Energy Center and outlined his experience with a concussion.

For about 10 days after he got a whiplash effect from a clean hit Dec. 7 by Edmonton's Andy Sutton , he could not do things such as drive or watch television.

"I was sitting in my room in the dark, and that's not a fun thing," the young star said. "After that, it was just sort of a gradual process."

The game against the Penguins was Skinner's second after he missed 16 games. Similar to Letang, Skinner "just felt a little bit weird after the hit." The next time he was on the ice, for a morning skate 36 hours after the hit, he realized he needed to consult with doctors.

"The pucks going off the board were kind of annoying, the noise," Skinner said. "All the people kind of skating around threw me off. That's when I found that I wasn't feeling normal."

Skinner left the game briefly in the third period after taking an open-ice, shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Brooks Orpik .

Staal misses Staal

The Staal brothers love playing against each other, and Carolina center Eric Staal was not thrilled that he did not have a chance to turn the tables on Penguins center Jordan Staal .

Jordan, who has a knee injury, had a goal Dec. 27 in the Penguins' 4-2 win against the Hurricanes.

"Last game, he played really well," Eric said. "I went against him most of the night. He ended up with the first star, and our line was minus-2."

Asham out sick; Vitale in

Penguins forward Arron Asham missed the morning skate and the game. Coach Dan Bylsma said Asham was "not feeling well." That gave Joe Vitale a chance to get back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous three games.

For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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